Joe Wilson got involved in documentary filmmaking through his social activism on human rights issues. Frustrated by the limitations of traditional organizing and advocacy, he picked up a camera with hopes of reaching broader audiences with stories that would inform and compel people to act.
In 2004, Wilson returned to his small hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania with his partner in life and filmmaking, Dean Hamer, to direct and produce the Sundance-supported, Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary Out in the Silence. Through more than 700 grassroots screenings across the country, this film has become part of a national movement to open dialogue, counter school bullying, and support fairness and equality for all in small towns and rural communities.
In 2011, Wilson & Hamer moved to O'ahu to begin an exciting new PBS film project about gender identity and expression in a world in which there is a place in the middle for all. It is told through the lens of Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident mahu, or transgender woman, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader. The film, nearing completion, will launch in festivals and community screenings in 2014 and be broadcast on national public television in 2015.
Joe was the Program Officer for Human Rights & Global Security at Public Welfare Foundation in Washington, DC for 10 years. Before joining the Foundation, he worked with the Pacifica Radio Network’s national public affairs program Democracy Now, and was a director of domestic and international grants programs at Share Our Strength, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-poverty organization. Joe received his B.A. in Urban Planning and Economics from the University of Pittsburgh and served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the West African country of Mali.